Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire
Female genital mutilation is the process of partially or totally removing the external female genitalia, and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls around the globe. While many strive to ban this non-medical practice, FGM still has a grip on many countries. One such country where FGM is prevalent is Côte d’Ivoire. Here is some information regarding the practice of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the measures to eradicate it.

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is a country located along the south coast of West Africa. With a population of about 25 million, FGM practices affect approximately 36.7% of women ages 15-67, the highest prevalence being 60% to 75% among the ethnic groups of the northwest regions of Nord, Nord-Ouest and Ouest. However, girls and women of all ages and from all different regions of Côte d’Ivoire are at risk of FGM.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire stems from two reasons, the first being social and cultural traditions. Those who perform the actual cut are typically the older women that make it their living and perform the procedure without anesthesia and the use of medical facilities. Pressure for older girls to undergo FGM often takes place when the prospective husband and his family will not accept a bride that has not experienced it.

The second reason for FGM’s prevalence in Côte d’Ivoire traces back to the large migrant population coming in and out of the country. Many migrants originate from countries where there is little to no legal action against FGM, such as the border nations of Guinea and Mali. The frequent crossing of borders attributes to the high percentages of women and girls who experience FGM in the northwest regions.

Harms of Female Genital Mutilation

Of the four major types of FGM that the World Health Organization (WHO) identified, Côte d’Ivoire practices Type 2. There are no health benefits to any type of FGM, as the non-medical practice mutilates a normal organ of a woman’s body. Instead, FGM harms those who undergo the procedure, and the victims become increasingly at risk to develop health complications in the present moment or in the future. Women and girls who experience FGM largely suffer from the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Infection
  • Urinary and vaginal problems
  • Childbirth complications

Steps Against Female Genital Mutilation

The government of  Côte d’Ivoire created legislation targeting the practice of FGM. Article 5 of the Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire prohibits “female genital mutilation as well as any other forms of degradation of human beings.” Law No. 98-757 of 23 December 1998 criminalized the practice of FGM in all forms, which includes actions by medical professionals and by those who aid in its performance.

Since the creation of Law No. 98-757, few people who practice FGM have experienced prosecution. The Ministry for Women and the Protection of the Child and Solidarity is a major government authority in Côte d’Ivoire. It protects the country’s women and girls and ensures equality in economic, social and cultural areas. From 2008-2012, the government put a National Action Plan in place that protects women and girls from sexual violence, including FGM. Since the National Action Plan’s end, there have been no new talks to implement a new plan.

Looking Ahead

While more work is necessary to completely end female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivory Coast, the work of those advocating to end FGM is making a difference in the local communities. Many are starting to see the harms that the practice inflicts. Small steps are still steps toward a brighter future for the women and girls affected.

– Grace Ingles
Photo: Flickr

Four Facts About Homelessness in GuineaThe Republic of Guinea is also known as Guinea-Conakry and most commonly, Guinea. Guinea is a country located on the northwest coast of Africa. Guinea’s 13.4 million population is quite diverse. It contains 24 ethnic groups and 25 languages. In addition, Guinea has incredible mineral wealth. Despite Guinea’s rich natural resources, Guinea’s residents suffer from myriad poverty-induced socioeconomic problems. Around 55% of Guineans live in poverty, with rates disproportionately high among rural dwellers, women and young people. This widespread poverty has predictably led to high rates of home insecurity and homelessness in Guinea. Here are fast facts on homelessness in Guinea.

4 Facts About Homelessness in Guinea

  1. The majority of Guinea’s population has insecure housing. In 2012, only 31.5% of Guineans had shelters with permanent walls. This means that 68.5% of the population is without adequate housing.
  2. Homelessness in Guinea varies greatly by demographic. Gender, ethnicity and occupation-based discrimination and inequality plague Guinea, leading to stark wealth disparities. Though subsistence agriculture is the backbone of Guinea’s economy, farmers typically suffer from abysmal living conditions. Around 71.1% of Guineans work as subsistence farmers while around 21.8% suffer from food insecurity. Female farmers are especially marginalized. Though women play a crucial role in agriculture, they are often denied land, education and employment. This often leads women to work for little to no pay. These disparities in wealth and resources are reflected in Guinea’s homeless population.
  3. Climate and global health disasters have exacerbated the problem. Guinea is prone to frequent natural disasters such as flooding and bush fires, especially in rural areas. For instance, catastrophes repeatedly destroy housing in Guinea’s poorest regions. In addition, Guinea was a primary target of the 2013-2016 West African Ebola virus epidemic. The 3,806 Ebola cases and 2,535 deaths devastated Guinea. This required its government to direct its resources toward eradicating the disease rather than homelessness and other social ills. Widespread infections of malaria and HIV/AIDS pose a similar, ongoing drain on Guinea’s wealth.
  4. Foreign aid is crucial to combating homelessness in Guinea. Numerous organizations are currently working to help Guineans achieve quality living conditions. Plan International has been operating in Guinea since 1989 to help alleviate the social problems that lead to homelessness, specifically by empowering Guinean children. Additionally, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Guinea is another vital group. It helps vulnerable Guineans, including those who are homeless, resettle in countries with better housing options. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also provides essential aid. It operates in Guinea since 1964 to provide food assistance and strengthen the Guinean government. In March 2015, it provided more than $7 million to the cause.

Homelessness in Guinea is not an isolated issue; it is a direct result of the nation’s high incidences of poverty, disease and discrimination. Fortunately, foreign aid has the potential to eliminate these issues. Past foreign aid investments have transformed the lives of Guineans. For example, China invested $526 million in a 240-megawatt dam that more than doubled the country’s electricity supply in 2015. Similar actions can help ensure that every Guinean has a roof over their head.

Abby Tarwater
Photo: Flickr

Yellow Fever in French GuianaFrench Guiana is a territory of France located on the northeastern coast of South America, bordering Suriname and Brazil. The territory has faced a history of oppression and neglect. Violent slave revolts shaped much of the land’s early history, its use as a penal colony shaped its recent past. This neglect has led to an overall sense of struggle, with issues arising in nearly all sectors of life. This sense of struggle becomes increasingly visible when regarding the recent cases of yellow fever in French Guiana.

Yellow Fever in French Guiana

In August of 2017, a Brazilian woman in her 40s contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. She was living in a clandestine gold mining village in the area of the dam lake Petit Saut. On August 2, she reported a fever, vomiting, lumbar and abdominal pain and intense asthenia. Her relatives reportedly witnessed hemorrhagic symptoms. On August 7, she was admitted to a hospital in Kourou. On August 8, she experienced multi-organ failure and was rushed to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Cayenne, the capital city of French Guiana. There, she was treated with intensive supportive therapy but showed no positive response. On August 9, she passed away.

In August of 2018, a Swiss man in his 40s, living in a forested area near the river Comté, developed a fever, body aches and mild myalgia. On August 5, a day after his symptoms began, he sought out medical attention. He was sent away with the diagnosis of an acute, dengue-like viral infection. In the days that followed, he experienced vomiting, prostration and a persisting fever. He returned to seek medical attention at the Cayenne hospital. He was admitted into the intensive care unit on August 8, and shortly thereafter, on August 9, he was transferred to a specialized transplant center outside of Paris and received a hepatic transplant. On August 10, blood tests confirmed that he had contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. On August 30, he passed away.

Yellow fever is a virus transmitted by the Aedes and Haemogogus species of mosquitos, the same species responsible for the spreading of Zika and Dengue. Yellow fever is endemic in French Guiana. Many of the infected do not experience symptoms, but those who do typically report some combination of a fever, an aching in the back and head, a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. A small percentage of those who do experience the initial wave of symptoms will later experience a second wave, referred to as the toxic phase. Those in the toxic phase will likely experience the development of jaundice, a darkening of the urine, vomiting and abdominal pain. Approximately half of all those who enter the toxic phase will die within seven to 10 days.

The endemic status of yellow fever in French Guiana says volumes on the state of the territory as a whole. Although there have been improvements in vaccination rates, with an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the population receiving the yellow fever vaccine, a lack of infrastructure and health care options thoroughly ostracize those living in more rural settings. 

Some communities, such as Maripasula, the most isolated town in French Guiana and France as a whole, takes three days to reach. One must travel by boat down the Amazon. The people of Maripasula have long demanded a road be put in, but as of now, no road exists. This greatly reduces their ability to combat fast-acting diseases such as yellow fever.

The government that rules over French Guiana is the same that rules mainland France, and yet, the GDP of those living in French Guiana is roughly half that of their European counterparts. A shocking 40 percent of citizens live in poverty, and over 20 percent are unemployed.

In 2018, USA Today listed France as the 24th richest country in the world. 

The disparity in income and quality of life between mainland France and French Guiana is drastic, to say the least. In 2017, French Guiana was overcome with protests and social unrest, with many of its citizens participating in mass strikes. The French government apologized for its neglectful treatment of French Guiana and promised to allocate 3 billion euros to the South American territory. This money was meant to be dispersed throughout a variety of sectors, with healthcare and education at the forefront. As of May 2019, this monetary promise remains largely unfulfilled.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

GuineaGuinea, a country located on the western coast of Africa, is one of 31 fragile states that was provided with grants from the United Nations (U.N.). In 2009, the U.N. granted $25 million to develop 50 programs dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment. This initiative is known as the Women’s Fund for Gender Equality (FGE). These programs for women’s empowerment in Guinea are divided into four categories: productive resources, institutional relations, interpersonal relations and personal resources.

The first category, productive resources, includes anything which deals with the economy and job market. In 2015, only 66 percent of women participated in the labor force, which is low compared to the 78 percent of men who participated. A study by the FGE found that one of the main reasons that women did not work was because they were already dedicating 82 hours a week to housework, childcare and fetching wood and water.

As a response, the FGE developed a training program to teach 300 women from Guinea’s Tristão Islands how to plant, grow, harvest and sell goods made from the moringa plant using solar polytunnel dryers. The moringa is a nutrient-rich tree that can grow in tropical climates and can easily be made into a powder, tea, paste or a sauce. Between 2013 and 2016, 25,000 moringa trees were planted and greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 40 tonnes through the use of new solar technology to dry them.

Institutional relations and interpersonal relations are closely related when it comes to FGE’s solution to help women’s empowerment in Guinea. These relations deal with the government, representation and identification in the local community. It is reported that only 48 percent of women in Guinea feel satisfied with their representation in the community. One of the reasons for this low number is that only 32 percent of women possess proper identification, which means that the majority of women cannot vote or take part in mainland institutions.

The FGE worked with Partenariat-Recherches-Environnement-Médias (PREM), a grantee organization in Guinea to establish cooperatives, which are small communities of 10-40 women and/or men. These optional groups help to organize economic efforts and help members learn from each other and save money as a collective.

As a member of a cooperative, you are also granted proper identification from PREM so you are able to participate in voting and other institutions. This means that women and men are helping to better women’s representation, but also granting them communities so that they have people in similar situations to lean on for support.

The FGE also maintains efforts to provide more personal resources to the women of Guinea. While many of the women of Guinea are beginning to enter the market of selling products, they are aware that there is more knowledge to be attained in order to be successful. Ninety-five percent of women have expressed a wish to have more knowledge when it comes to reading and writing; this knowledge is necessary to properly market and distribute their new moringa products.

Similar programs include the Business Coalition for Women, which is a group of businesses that work to improve gender equality and fight violence against women, as well as USAID’s Implementation Plan that invests in gender equality initiatives. These programs, along with the United Nations, are working hard to establish a system that increases women’s empowerment in Guinea, and these efforts continue to provide positive results.

– Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Education in Guinea
Several factors contribute to extreme poverty in Guinea. Guinea has made it a priority to address the major factors that add to this plight, one of which is education. With a population of around 10 million and a literacy rate of around 30 percent for young males and females, Guinea’s Strategic Poverty Reduction Document includes education as an important factor in helping to reduce overall poverty in the country. Guinea has received help from a few different nonprofits in order to develop strategies to meet these goals.

UNICEF is working to resolve the lack of investment in education that Guinea experiences. Classrooms have begun to overcrowd recently, partially due to refugee influxes, making it difficult for students to get the time and attention they need to succeed. Investments in additional classrooms and training staff are a part of UNICEF’s plan to alleviate this pressure, as well as adding new teaching styles to cater to the uniqueness of pupils.

Through UNICEF, the Global Partnership for Education is chipping away at specific goals to target the main issues surrounding education in Guinea. The partnership has set priorities of making education more universal and available, making improvements in quality and training and strengthening government to make investments in their people’s education and support reforms.

World Education, a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through access to education, has been present in Guinea since the late 1990s. World Education has focused its efforts primarily on capacity building through several different methods. They have worked to engage NGOs within Guinea and support community participation projects as well as received funding to kickstart such programs.

While most extremely poor nations experience education issues, it is important to recognize the work of the aforementioned organizations and the role of government in education. With consistent effort in this area, the state of education in Guinea can improve.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in GuineaSituated in West Africa, Guinea is a country populated with around 12 million people. As in many impoverished countries, hunger and malnutrition are issues primarily affecting the rural areas of the nation. Over half of the population lives in extremely poor conditions, and 17.5 percent are food-insecure. Coupled with poor socioeconomic conditions and a weak government, natural disasters and disease further add to the chronic malnourishment issue. There are several programs, however, that have contributed to alleviating the consequences of hunger in Guinea over the past few decades.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on reducing hunger in Guinea since the mid-1960s. In the time the organization has spent in Guinea, WFP has effectively improved nourishment by promoting education programs in schools, providing nourishment to women and children specifically with HIV, tuberculosis and Ebola and promoting locally grown foods. Another area of focus for food insecurity that the WFP is addressing is access to healthcare supplies by supporting government incentives for air transport.

Similarly, Action Against Hunger (AAH) is helping Guinea move forward in food security and nutrition. AAH began work in the mid-1990s and has worked to fight disease such as cholera, while also promoting better practices relating to hunger in Guinea. AAH assisted 264,124 people in 2016.

Earlier in 2017, two native Guineans were celebrated on International Women’s Day for their contributions to the fight against hunger in Guinea. The food security, resiliency and archeology project team of the Stop Hunger foundation awarded the two women for their work in involving local parboiling in schools in rural areas that experience food-insecurity. Supported by local government, the program is an excellent example of mobilization of local communities and the effectiveness that larger nonprofits have in sparking efforts toward reliving hunger in Guinea.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Guinea RefugeesGuinea is a West African country, located south of Guinea-Bissau. The nation has a long history of helping others escape persecution. For example, it has taken in thousands of refugees from Sierra Leone. However, Guinea refugees are both incoming and outgoing: the nation takes in thousands, but thousands are also leaving.

However, the inflow of people has burdened the economy. Poverty is a substantial reason for fleeing Guinea. The instability afflicting the country has consequently made life unbearable for many of their citizens. Here are 10 facts about Guinea refugees and an explanation of the relationship between refugees entering and leaving the country:

  1. During the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, Guinea hosted thousands of refugees. Approximately 300,000 asylum seekers from Sierra Leone entered Guinea. These refugees thus  put a strain on Guinea’s already struggling economy.
  2. Most of the refugees that flee to Guinea settle in the forest region. This created a decline in the region, and 40 percent of its inhabitants are now food-insecure. Consequently, with the influx of refugees and consequent depletion of resources, people are now starting to emigrate from Guinea.
  3. The total population of Guinea is 13,303,412. In 2016, 15,350 citizens fled. This number accounts for roughly 0.127 percent of the total population.
  4. Like many other African refugees, 81 percent of asylum applicants from Guinea were rejected.
  5. The most successful refugees were those going to the United States and Brazil.
  6. Germany is one of the more open European countries, and it is always at the top of the list for most accepted applicants. In fact, 3,458 Guinea refugees fled to Germany,  and 152 were accepted (22.75 percent).
  7. Experiments with socialism and a period under a junta government made life difficult for the people of Guinea. The junta forcefully took power in 2008, its leaders are responsible for mass murders and occurrences of rape.
  8. The instability in Guinea initiated violent ethnic tension. The different ethnicities entering Guinea from Sierra Leone and other war-torn countries made the possibility of a united, consolidated country difficult to achieve.
  9. Citizens of Guinea also endure poverty and high rates of malnutrition. In 1996, the poverty rate was 40 percent, and it rose to 49 percent in 2004. The share of the population living in extreme poverty grew from 18 percent to 27 percent.
  10. Consequently, poverty is a major reason for fleeing Guinea. In 2012, 35.3 percent of the population lived at or below $1.90 a day.

These 10 facts about Guinea refugees show that the country is struggling. However, improvements are happening. For example, food insecurity in the forest region has decreased. In 2007, 59.7 percent of the population was at or below the poverty line. In 2012, this was down to 35.3 percent.

Guinea’s population is growing, and the nation has made enormous strides in the past few years. If Guinea keeps moving in this direction, poverty will decline and the overall prosperity of the country will increase.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a country located on the West coast of Africa. The country is home to around 10.5 million people. Natural disasters, such as the Ebola epidemic and recurring floods, have left much of the population with food insecurity. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Guniea.

10 Facts About Hunger in Guinea

  1. Around 55 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
  2. More than 17 percent of the Guinean people do not have food security.
  3. This food insecurity can lead to malnutrition. Around 25.9 percent of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition, this number includes nearly 100,000 children under five.
  4. Guinea is prone to frequent natural disasters, which hurt food security. Flooding is particularly common and affects approximately 50,000 to 69,000 people each year.
  5. The majority of Guineans are subsistence farmers, which makes them especially vulnerable to these natural disasters.
  6. The 2014 Ebola outbreak made already vulnerable people even more susceptible to poverty and hunger in Guinea. Trading restrictions and a curfew limit the population’s ability to participate in economic activities.
  7. Guinea’s limited resources are strained further by the influx of thousands of refugees fleeing political instability in nearby countries.
  8. In addition to providing free school lunches, the World Food Programme gives take-home food supplies to girls enrolled in the final grade. This acts as an incentive for families to keep girls in school.
  9. High rates of poverty and hunger in Guinea has contributed to the country remaining low on the Human Development Index. Currently, Guinea ranks number 178 out of 187 countries.
  10. Despite the persisting poverty in Guinea, the average life expectancy has risen significantly, from 38 in 1980 to 54.5 in 2012.

While food insecurity remains high, the rise in average life expectancy as well as the presence of assistance programs in the country show promise in reducing the rampant hunger in Guinea.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

She's Successful: Creating Opportunities for Female Students in Guinea
Guinea has finally achieved a steady path to educational opportunity for all as the growth enrollment rate (GER) of the country has increased rather consistently over the past decade. According to an April 2002 report from The World Bank, successes toward eliminating the gender gap “provides guidance on how resource-poor countries can plan and follow a steady course toward Universal Primary Education through policy change and hard work, even where conditions, on the surface, are not particularly favorable.”

Young girls in Guinea have experienced persistent gender disparity in education. This disparity is apparent across both urban and rural areas. Specific strategies to help alleviate the issue include USAID support, the backing of the Federation of African Women Educationists (FAWE) and the Ministry of Education, which were implemented as a means for eliminating disadvantages for young female students in Guinea.

The impressive transformation of education in Guinea is so impressive that The World Bank reports it “achieved one of the world’s highest rates of GER growth over the decade.” Consistent donor support alongside adamant remedial gender-based policy vision attributes to the wide successes for female students in Guinea. At the end of 2001, the GER for boys was 59 percent while that of girls was a considerably near 41 percent as opposed to the gap in 1990 existing between 69 percent for boys and 31 percent for girls.

Guinea is credited for creating one of Africa’s first gender equity committees in the vital year of 1991 thanks to the involvement of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry advocated to highlight factors affecting girls’ education, like sanitary facilities available and teacher accommodation for girls, and thus use government funded programs to solve these issues and consequently increase attendance and participation for female students in Guinea.

At the end of the 2002 report, The World Bank stated that “despite the gains in gender equity…the degree of expenditure bias is much higher in rural areas where expenditure on boys is 1.9 times that of girls in primary and nearly four times in secondary education. Guinea’s future success will depend in large part on its ability to further build teaching and learning quality.” Luckily, Guinea joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2002. The GPE has been a key catalyst for the continued change in educational opportunity for female students in Guinea. This resulted in a recent General Education Strategic Plan (GESP) which covers the years 2015-2017 and “is focused on equal access, quality, relevance, and the strengthening the management of the education sector.”

Three GPE grants have been given to Guinea to support new education sector plans, and the results have been significant. Forty million dollars was granted for the years 2008-2014, $24 million for 2010-2014, and an expected $37.8 million grant will go to Guinea for the years 2015-2018.

GPE grants have resulted in success in the past. The first contributed to “increasing the girls’ examination success rate for 7th-grade entrance in 100 targeted schools from 49 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2014.” According to the Global Partnership for Education, another grant increased “the gross enrollment rate for nine targeted prefectures by 10 percentage points, from 47 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2014.”

In order to continue to encourage female students in Guinea to be successful, the new GESP strategy will focus on improving access to a basic education for all under-served groups in Guinea. Though the country still faces challenges in equity, the $37.8 million GEP grant for 2015-2018 along with adherence to the GESP will “encourage girls’ enrollment and retention through creating associations of mothers and mentors, providing training on the benefits of schooling.”

Hailey Visscher

Photo: Flickr

Ebola Flare-Up
In March of 2014, the Ebola virus ravaged countries in western Africa, quickly becoming the deadliest occurrence of the disease since 1973. As of January of this year, there have been a total of 28,637 thousand reported cases and 11,315 thousand deaths classified as probable, confirmed and suspected. This month, yet another Ebola flare-up is ravaging western Africa.

While the full force of the Ebola spread has been contained, health professionals are still fighting to drop the number of cases to zero. This month, a total of five people have died in Guinea’s recent Ebola flare-up. Naturally, the question arises whether or not this recent flare-up will spread to the same epidemic levels that West Africa had seen in the past.

Ultimately, the major difference between this recent Ebola flare-up and the huge outbreak of 2014 is that health professionals have been closely monitoring the situation. The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) has reopened its treatment unit in Nzerekore the area most affected. UNICEF also has a team in the region providing protective equipment and medicine.

The Guinea Ebola flare-up began in mid-March when the World Health Organization was alerted to three potential deaths and two suspected cases of Ebola. The emergency coordination mechanism was then reactivated, according to the WHO’s official statement, “deploying dozens of epidemiologists, surveillance experts, contact tracers, vaccinators, social mobilizers, health promoters, and infection prevention and control experts to support the effort.”

Writing for Care2, Steve Williams notes, “It’s important to emphasize that these new cases represent a contained incident.” A similar Ebola flare-up occurred in Sierra Leone in March, but this sudden rise in Ebola incidence was declared contained by the WHO. As a response to the Guinea flare-up, WHO is tracking 816 people that have come in contact with people contaminated with the virus or virus-ridden corpses.

Liberia is also taking steps to prevent new cases. The country has decided to close its border with Guinea. Lenn Eugene Nanobe, the country’s information minister, told Reuters, “We have ordered the border with Guinea closed with immediate effect. The border will remain closed until the situation in Guinea improves.” WHO declared Liberia Ebola free last January.

Reuters reported recently that Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, accepted the recommendations of a committee of independent experts who called for lifting any travel and trade restrictions affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),” Chan told a news briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Michael A. Clark

Sources: BBC, Care2, Newsweek, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Reuters 3, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr